Submitted August 29, 2017
Certified Report by the Board of Professional Conduct of the
Supreme Court, No. 2016-070.
J. Drexel, Disciplinary Counsel, Joseph M. Caligiuri, Chief
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, and Audrey E. Varwig,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, for relator.
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter Co., L.P.A., and Jonathan E.
Coughlan, for respondent.
1} Respondent, Cynthia Ann Williams, of Hillsboro,
Ohio, Attorney Registration No. 0055541, was admitted to the
practice of law in Ohio in 1991.
2} In a December 6, 2016 complaint, relator,
disciplinary counsel, alleged that Williams abused the
prestige of her judicial office to advance her personal
interests in violation of Jud.Cond.R. 1.3 by asserting her
status as a magistrate in an attempt to avoid arrest during a
traffic stop. Based on the parties' stipulations and
Williams's hearing testimony, a panel of the Board of
Professional Conduct found that Williams committed the
charged violation and recommended that she be publicly
reprimanded for her misconduct. The board adopted the
panel's findings and recommended sanction.
3} We agree that Williams abused the prestige of her
judicial office to advance her personal interests and
publicly reprimand her for her misconduct.
4} Williams was appointed as a magistrate of the
Highland County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, on
July 14, 1997, and on April 1, 2015, she was appointed as a
magistrate of that court's probate and juvenile
5} The parties stipulate that on July 9, 2016, at
approximately 3:30 a.m., an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper
stopped Williams on State Route 32 in Union Township,
Clermont County, Ohio, after observing her vehicle drift to
the left of the solid white fog line. The trooper asked
Williams to step out of her vehicle and inquired about how
much she had had to drink; she stated that she had two beers.
When the trooper began to administer the horizontal gaze
nystagmus test, Williams stated, "I'm a
magistrate." In response, the trooper asked Williams
where she was a magistrate, and she replied, "Highland
County." Then, the trooper told her that he had to make
sure that she was not driving while intoxicated.
6} Minutes later, when the trooper was instructing
Williams on the walk-and- turn field sobriety test, she told
him, "I'm a judge. My son's a Secret Service
officer. I would not be driving drunk." After the
trooper handcuffed her and informed her that she did not pass
the field sobriety test, she said, "Please! I'm a
judge. Don't do this to me. I did not flunk this. I
didn't flunk it!" Seconds later, when Williams was
in the back seat of the trooper's cruiser, she said,
"Sir, I'm going to lose my job! Please let me speak
to my attorney. Officer! Officer, listen to me! I may lose my
job. Would you please let me speak to my attorney in the car?
Please?" She then repeated, "I'm a judge. My
son's a Secret Service officer."
7} At no time did the trooper solicit information
about Williams's judicial status or ask her to provide
information that would disclose her judicial status. And the
parties stipulate that if the trooper had provided sworn
testimony about the incident, he would have testified that he
believed that Williams mentioned her judicial status in order
to avoid being arrested.
8} Williams pled no contest to reckless operation in
violation of R.C. 4511.20, a third-degree misdemeanor. The
court found her guilty and sentenced her to 30 days in jail,
with 27 days suspended; imposed two years of
community-control sanctions, including three days at a
residential driver's intervention program; and fined her
$200 plus court costs. In addition, the ...